My wife and I are older parents. We like to think we have much wisdom to pass on, but we have to be mindful of some very negative things we can pass on as well. Age brings healthy skepticism, and raising a daughter who reasonably questions authority will not be a bad thing. However, cyniscm often accompanies skepticism, and the last thing we want is a cynical child. Childhood should be about wonder and possibility. Cynicism can quickly kill that. So we have to keep the negativity in check.
A far more dangerous pattern also often emerges with age. Wrongs, suspicion, anger, and mistakes often brew contempt. And there is nothing less childlike than a contemptuous adult. Couples too easily become contemptuous of each other. People actually hold those with opposite views on social issues as enemies. Sometimes even the smallest infraction is left to simmer to years later boil over as hate.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Certainly, the people closest to you want what’s best for you. They want you to be safe, secure, and, if possible, happy. Sometimes they want these things for us even more than we want them for ourselves. This is loving, caring, and compassionate. And it can be a burden that holds us back from our true potential.
Friday, July 10, 2015
I recently presented to a large group of Direct Support Professionals, people who support individuals with behavioral challenges. I have conducted similar workshops for family members of those with serious mental illness. We talk about stress management, self-protection, and the limits of compassion. We meditate together. But the topic that always garners the most interest is how the supporters’ own reactivity, or fight or flight response, can precipitate negative behaviors in the individuals they support.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
One of the doctrines of meditation, especially Buddhist inspired meditation, is radical acceptance. Often misunderstood, at its root lies the need to experience things as they are, not bound by judgment, opinion, or our desire to change things to better suit our expectations. Also informing many people’s meditation practice is the Buddhist idea that an attachment to anger is one of the causes of suffering, again colored by judgment, opinion, and a desire to change. Desire itself, or an attachment to desire, is cited as another cause of suffering. Not accepting things as they are, wanting them to be different, can cause us great emotional distress.
But what if our experience itself is unacceptable?
Monday, July 6, 2015
I wrote in a post titled Discipline and Diagnostics that one of the benefits of meditation to a person with a mental illness is the ability to detect episodes early. Well, I’m in one.
It’s been hard to sit at all, let alone for the thirty minutes I do each day. I find myself agitated and fidgety. My thoughts are all over the place. This is not unusual during meditation, but in taking note of the subjects of my thoughts, I can see hypomania creeping in. I’m thinking of buying stuff. I’m thinking of trading stocks. I’m thinking of another career change, discarding good ideas for more exciting, if undoable, ones. All of my thoughts are about getting and doing. Anything. Right now I feel smarter, more creative, and more energetic than I usually do. That might be dangerous, but that’s what I’m feeling, and that’s what I encounter during meditation.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
I’ve established myself as an advocate of getting people off of long-term disability. Too many people with mental illness are discouraged from living at their most productive potential by a method of assistance that condemns them to living within a system that doles out subsistence while imprisoning them in a life where the guarantee of a monthly check prohibits the risk and reward of work. There are many incentives to stay on assistance, and many stigmas and barriers to stepping out and being fully responsible for one’s present and future. I also believe that if some organization is paying one’s bills, then that organization has every right to demand certain behavior of the payee. Things like medication compliance, lifestyle practices, and the need to contribute in every way possible through volunteering, part-time work, etc. should be expected of the person being supported by someone else. One is free to neglect treatment and engage in dangerous behavior. One is also free to make no effort to pay a portion of one’s expenses. This person, however, should not expect a public entity to support such irresponsibility and squandering of others' contributions, either through charity, insurance, or tax-based transfer programs. The benefit of work on treatment outcomes is well established, and the legal structure exists to enable the challenged person to work with accommodations. So to be very blunt, comply and try or expect no assistance.
Friday, May 15, 2015
(repost from August 2012)
It’s easy to say that when meditating one should focus on the breath and release thoughts as they arise, but it’s incredibly difficult to do. I’ve been a bit hypomanic lately, and ideas are flying through my head. Concentration and attention are very difficult. Acknowledging thoughts and letting them go is hard enough on a good day. What do I do now?
During mindfulness meditation you keep your attention on your breath, but you want to be fully aware in this moment. So you still take note of sounds and smells, aches and pains, all that makes up the present moment. When thoughts arise the instructions are to notice them, let them go, and return to the breath. But to just blot out thoughts without paying attention to them would not be very mindful at all. Don’t ignore your thoughts, work with them.